The significance of water as one of the four ancient elements of nature should not be overlooked. Water is one of the most important and the most mysterious substances on earth. Even our modern understanding of its structure and physical properties sets it apart. Because there would be no life on Earth as we know it without water, it is intimately linked to the principle of life itself. When we stand before the waters of Baptism we are standing before the waters of life, the waters of a new creation. When Baptism is performed on the eve of Pascha, its significance as the beginning of the new day, a new creation, in which we enter into the Kingdom of God, is made clear. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24.
There are three essential dimensions of the symbolism of water.
• Cosmos and Life
There can be no life without water.
"And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Genesis 1:2.
• Destruction and Death
The mysterious depth of the sea kills and annihilates. The dark sea is an image of the irrational elements of the world. Noah and the Flood. Pharoah’s army destroyed in the Red Sea. Jonah before being swollowed up by the whale.
"For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head." Jonah 2:3-5.
• Purification and Cleanliness
Water is used for regeneration and renewal. It washes away dirt and stains. It recreates purity.
"Thou shalt also make a laver of brass, and his foot also of brass, to wash withal: and thou shalt put it between the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar, and thou shalt put water therein. When they go into the tabernacle of the congregation, they shall wash with water, that they die not; or when they come near to the altar to minister, to burn offering made by fire unto the LORD." Exodus 30:18-20.